11 Jan Ardmore, County Waterford
The seaside village of Ardmore stands on a promontory known mainly for its association with St Declan, the 5th century missionary who brought Christianity o this part of Ireland.
St Declan is said to have been at sea when, in answer to prayer, a floating rock with his bell and vestments appeared near the boat. ‘Wherever that lands vowed the saint, ‘I will too, and there will my resurrection be.’ St Declan’s stone can be seen where it supposedly came to rest, perched on rocks near the South end of the beach. To be able to crawl beneath the stone was believed to cure the rheumatism of all but sinners – but the act would also demand considerable athleticism. Past Cliff House Hotel, a path leads to St Declan’s Well and a ruined church where the saint spent his final years. It includes a stone seat and a sunken bath where pilgrims bathed.
Above the village, a 12th century Round Tower that tapers to almost 100ft is an unmistakeable landmark. One of the best preserved towers in Ireland, its unusual features are the regularity of the masonry, the projecting string courses at unequal intervals and the roll-moulding around the doorway, which is 13ft above ground level.
The side of the tower and the stone walls of the adjacent 12th century Cathedral include a unique composition of arched panels containing low-relief sculptures, thought to have been taken from an older building and now set into the West gable. The subjects include the Weighing of Souls, the Fall of Man, the Judgement of Solomon and the Adoration of the Magi. Within the shell of the Cathedral are several memorial stones and two ogham stones.
St Declan’s oratory dates from the 9th century and is reputedly his burial place. Each year on July 24, pilgrims celebrate St Declan’s feast day by making their rounds of the ‘stations’ beginning in Declan’s Well.
Ardmore is a must see on your tours of Ireland.